Why are we in Iraq? Gog and Magog
This being so, one must not neglect the dangers of Christian present-mindedness with regard to Scripture. A recent piece (May 26, 2009) by Clive Hamilton at the CounterPunch site contains some disquieting information (http://www.alternet.org/politics/140221/bush%27s_shocking_biblical_prophecy_).
First, a bit of background. We recently learned that Donald Rumsfeld, Bush’s Secretary of Defense, sought to gain his chief’s attention by sprinkling secret wartime memos with Biblical quotations.
Rumsfeld, it seems, had accurately gauged the mentality of his boss. According to Clive Hamilton, Bush came up with a bizarre rationale for launching a war against Iraq. This claim appeared in a 2003 exchange with French president Jacques Chirac. The American president explained that the sinister biblical creatures Gog and Magog were at work in the Middle East; they must be defeated at all costs.
The biblical tradition begins with the reference to Magog, son of Japheth, in the Book of Genesis and continues in cryptic pronouncements in the book of Ezekiel, which are echoed in the New Testament book of Revelation, and in the Qur'an. Preoccupation with Gog and Magog is pan-Abrahamic, spanning all three faiths.
Yet the tradition is ambiguous, with a range of opinions regarding the nature of the entities. They are variously represented as men, supernatural beings (giants or demons), national groups, or lands. Penetrating down into the popular level, Gog and Magog crop up in a wide range of mythology and folklore.
Biblical commentators have identified Gog and Magog as archetypal figures of apocalyptic import who will come out of the north and destroy Israel unless stopped. The Book of Revelation (20:7-9) took up the theme:
“And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison. And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.” (King James Version)
In this influential passage, Gog and Magog figure as the nations in the four corners of the earth, and their attack represents an eschatological crisis after the Millennium, a crisis to be resolved by divine intervention. Although the language of Gog and Magog's destruction recalls the passage in Ezekiel, premillennialist Christians believe that Ezekiel's prophecy and the description found in the Book of Revelation rank as two distinct eschatological events. According to this belief, the war described by Ezekiel takes place before the millennium (probably as an opening catastrophe of the apocalyptic era), while the event depicted in the Book of Revelation occurs at the end of the millennium era (as a concluding event that leads to the closing of the millennium era).
Who or what are Gog and Magog? Later traditions identified these portentous creatures with the Babylonians, the Lydians, the Goths, the Scythians, and even the Irish. Twentieth-century dispensationalism, however, singled out the Russians as the most likely candidate. With the fall of the Soviet Union this claim became less plausible, though some adepts seem to think nowadays that an alliance linking Russia, Iran, North Korea and other states might fill the bill.
Whatever his precise identification, Bush insisted that the time had come for the decisive battle. He admonished Chirac: "This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people's enemies before a New Age begins." The use of the term “erase” is particularly ominous. Ethnic cleansing, anyone?
Baffled by Bush's words and unversed in the ways of American Fundamentalism, Chirac’s aides consulted Thomas Romer, a professor of theology at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. Four years later, Romer gave an account of the episode in the September 2007 issue of the university's review, “Allez Savoir.” The article was little noticed at the time.
In a new book, published in France in March by journalist Jean-Claude Maurice, Chirac is said to have confirmed the report. Astonished by Bush's invocation of Biblical prophecy to justify the war in Iraq, the French president "wondered how someone could be so superficial and fanatical in their beliefs.”
Again in 2003, that crucial year, Bush had reportedly told the Palestinian foreign minister that he was on "a mission from God" in launching the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. He was receiving commandments from the Lord.
There were a number of reasons for attacking Iraq. Preeminent among them, I believe, was protection of the interests of the state of Israel. For a long time we have known that large sectors of American evangelicals have been beating the drum for Israeli expansion and assertiveness. This report exposes a new facet of this disturbing alliance.
Hamilton remarks: “There can be little doubt now that President Bush's reason for launching the war in Iraq was, for him, fundamentally religious. He was driven by his belief that the attack on Saddam's Iraq was the fulfilment of a Biblical prophecy in which he had been chosen to serve as the instrument of the Lord.”
As Hamilton further notes, “Many thousands of Americans and Iraqis have died in the campaign to defeat Gog and Magog. That the US President saw himself as the vehicle of God whose duty was to prevent the Apocalypse can only inflame suspicions across the Middle East that the United States is on a crusade against Islam.”
And, I would add, he was determined to protect the interests of the state of Israel at all costs.
UPDATE. I have been told that some of these threads have been drawn together by the novelist and independent scholar Joel C. Rosenberg (born 1967), who seems to enjoy a cult following. Rosenberg has published five novels about jihadism and how it relates to biblical prophecy, including The Ezekiel Option (2005), which has some material on Gog and Magog. Two nonfiction books, Epicenter and Inside the Revolution, also deal with the alleged resemblance of biblical prophecies and current events. Rosenberg seems to think that Israel is endangered by a contemporary avatar of Gog and Magog, consisting of an alliance of Russia, Iran, as well as possibly Turkey and Ethiopia, among others.
Rosenberg was born to a Jewish father and a Methodist mother. At the age of 17 he joined his parents in becoming a born-again Christian. After graduating in 1988 from Syracuse University, he worked for Rush Limbaugh as a research assistant. Rosenberg opened a political consultancy business, which he ran until 2000, advising former Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky and then-former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel where he gathered many of the impressions that he would later use in his books.
He has made a number of presentations in the media. Rosenberg's July 31, 2006, "Paula Zahn Now" appearance posed the question of "whether the crisis in the Middle East is actually a prelude to the end of the world." Apparently this was a common preoccupation of CNN in those days. Rosenberg compared apocalyptic biblical texts to modern events, which he views through the "third lens of scripture."
Rosenberg's views on the War of Ezekiel 38–39 involving Gog and Magog are generally considered dispensationalist and have elicited some controversy among evangelical Christians. Partial preterist [whatever that may be] Gary DeMar has debated Rosenberg on this subject.
Labels: Gog and Magog Israeli interests